On paper Keith’s conviction for arson sounds terrible but, the key to his success has been his ability to disclose it openly and honestly to any college/university or employer that asks.

I left home at the age of 16 and for the next two years stayed with one of my best mates and his family.

By the time I was 18 I was holding down a job and had managed to rent my own home. I had some good mates and every now and again, I did what every 18 years old does, I met up with friends, had a few too many drinks and got drunk. However, for me, the consequences had far more serious consequences.

On the day in question, I’d been to the pub and then invited several friends back to mine for a barbeque. Just as we were about to light it, the rain started and, probably due to the influence of drink, I decided it would be a good idea to move the barbeque close to the back door. Unfortunately this led to the kitchen door catching alight.

One of my friends called the fire service but we’d actually managed to put the fire out before they arrived. However, my landlord reported the incident to the police and I was convicted of arson and received a community order. In my opinion, ‘arson’ sounds a whole lot worse than what happened that day – 30 years ago.

Five years after I was convicted, I applied to run a summer play scheme for children from the ages of 5 – 11 years of age; I’m pleased to say that my application was successful.

For the past 10 years I’ve been doing voluntary community work on a local housing estate and at the same time I also studied with the Open University and gained a degree in mathematics and astronomy.

Last summer I applied to do teacher training. I already had a DBS certificate for my voluntary role and I’d signed up for the DBS Update Service so it was relatively easy for the teacher training college to see my DBS certificate. I nervously handed over the hard copy of the certificate and disclosed my conviction only to be told that I needed to meet with the Safeguarding Officer.

I was really anxious about the meeting but again, I disclosed the conviction and explained the circumstances surrounding it. The Safeguarding Officer told me

When someone applies for the course with a conviction, we look at two things. One is the offence, the circumstances and would it make the person a danger to children and adults. The other is would the offence stop that person from gaining employment as a teacher. In both of these, the answer is no – so welcome onboard.”

I’m now three months away from qualifying as a teacher and my life has completely changed. I’m the happiest I’ve been for a long time and I’m looking forward to the next stage.

I don’t cherish the feeling that I’ll always have to declare my conviction and I know that I may not get some teaching positions because of it. My crime was not malicious or nasty, it was a naïve 18 year old being stupid and foolish. It’s part of my past which I’m not proud of but accept that it happened and have now shown society what I’m capable of, and where I want to go.

By Keith  (name changed to protect identity)

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